Getting to Know: Glenn Hadley – Director of Foundations Events

In this post we interview Glenn Hadley, Director of Foundations Events. Glenn shares his personal story of recovery and what makes him so passionate about now getting to help others overcome the disease of addiction. He also shares his thoughts on the treatment industry as a whole, and his goal to continue to improve the industry through Foundations Events conferences.

Interviewer: Hello! Welcome! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me.

Glenn Hadley: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

Interviewer: For starters, what is your connection to addiction and why is recovery so important to you?

Glenn: Well, I’m a person in long-term recovery from substance use myself. As someone that has been affected by this disease personally, I have seen it in my family and friends and grown up with it. I’m very passionate about working in this industry and helping in any way that I can.

Interviewer: You mentioned the substance abuse and you mentioned yourself. Can you go into a little more detail about when you decided it was time to get help?

Glenn: Sure. I was basically raised on a tennis court and was that little kid who was out there hitting tennis balls every day before school, during school, after school, on weekends. And my whole goal growing up was to be a professional tennis player. All my friends and everybody were out, like, spending the night out and doing all that stuff kids do and I was out hitting the little yellow tennis ball. It worked really well because, at the age of 15, I played my first professional tennis tournament, which was pretty cool, right? But I wasn’t going to drink, I wasn’t going to do drugs and wasn’t going to do any of that stuff.

And the problem was that I really wanted to fit in and I really wanted to be cool. And tennis players in East Texas are not the coolest to kids – like it’s all about football and everything there. What I did find was what that the cool kids did was that they threw parties. And so even though I didn’t drink, when I started getting into high school, I started throwing parties and having people over. At one of these parties that I was throwing, I had a beer and nothing bad happened. Everything worked out really well, and I couldn’t wait to do it again.

Interviewer: And so you found your way to coolness…

Glenn: Yeah, exactly. Then the next time I did it, it just went off the rails and I went off the rails and I ended up going into a blackout and ended up in other people’s houses that I didn’t know. The cops woke me up and my parents thought I had died, and it was just awful. And yet I couldn’t wait to do it again. Every opportunity I got after I started drinking, I would go drink. It started to interfere with my tennis, and I started showing up to practice drunk. I would start to go out all night and I got introduced to other substances. I started partying at night and playing tennis all day.

Until finally, these two worlds were getting to be too much, so, one of them had to go. I either had to quit the tennis thing or I had to quit the party thing. So, I did what any self-respecting alcoholic and drug addict would do – I quit the tennis thing and I became a DJ. I thought that would be better, and so I got involved in the rave scene and started DJing at raves and stuff like that.

My drug usage got really heavy back then. And there were a few years in there where I just completely lost my identity, who I was, and just burned everybody out there. I got to the point where I had sold my turntables and everything that I had. I burned every bridge with my family and I ended up on the streets. I was living in this little town in East Texas in the bathroom of an apartment center’s pool house. I stayed there for a while to get out of the cold.

Then I left there and ended up walking from Texas to Louisiana. I started over there and I never could get that it was the drinking or the drugs. It was always somebody else’s fault. It was my parents’ fault. It was my coach’s fault. It was the girlfriend’s fault. And so I just kept blaming other people until it just got to a place where I had gone through a couple of marriages, a couple of divorces and a couple of ruined jobs and careers and other stuff and after a while, I just couldn’t blame anybody else, you know?

So finally, I get to a place where I’m getting divorced again, I had kids by this time and finally something inside of me broke and said: “I can’t do this anymore.” I made a phone call and I asked for help and I made a phone call to go to treatment. I really don’t know what was different about that particular time, but whenever I got the treatment, I didn’t drink again. I’ve been sober ever since.

I figured out that nothing outside of me; no job, no relationship, not even my kids or family are gonna keep me sober. I had to go to treatment and I had to learn some tools and some skills to actually live sober.

The problem for me is not whenever I’m loaded. When I’m loaded, I actually feel somewhat normal. It’s when I’m stone-cold sober, that’s when there’s a problem. I had to actually get some tools that I could live by and that’s what treatment did for me. They exposed me to tools and connected me to a group of people that had similar backgrounds and similar stories to mine. Through that fellowship and through doing a lot of work on trauma and trauma and relationships and hitting both sides of that did I get to a place where I could actually be sober

Interviewer: What’s something you’ve learned about addiction treatment in general that others might not know?

Glenn: One thing that I’m really passionate about today is that there’s not a standard treatment. Like, there is no “one way” to do treatment. There are so many different ways out there because we’re all different.

The treatment center that I went to, there were like, a hundred patients, and it was coed. [Unlike our facilities,] the programming was bare-bones at best, but they did a great job. The people there were awesome. I absolutely loved it. But it was exactly what I needed, right? Now, if you’ve talked to 50 other people that were there at the exact same time as me, that went through the exact same treatment as I went to, they would tell you that it was awful. They would tell you that it didn’t work, that it was in a terrible place, and that’s true [too], right? Because we’re all different, right?

There are so many treatment modalities and treatment, options out there, and really what I find is that it’s our job working in this field to actually get the person in touch with the services that’s gonna work with them the best. It’s gonna fit for them, and it’s not one size fits all. And, and we have to do a good job in this industry of helping people find the help that they’re going to identify with.

Interviewer: What are the challenges that come with people having such different needs and situations?

Glenn: One thing that I think is very difficult for us (people in recovery or people that work in the treatment industry) is that we have a very – I’m going to speak for myself – I have a very limited perspective on what someone that’s suffering from addiction looks like. That viewpoint, that very limited viewpoint is based on me, right? It’s based on my experience. That’s what I can pull from.

So when I see somebody that has a different perspective, that that presents in a different way than me, it challenges that in me. I really have to rely on being very open and open-minded about it to not look at that person and say that they’re doing something wrong or that they’re different, or they don’t fit as an alcoholic or an addict just because it doesn’t fit my viewpoint. I have to be open to that and be like, ‘You know what? Just because I had a certain experience doesn’t mean that’s everybody’s experience.’

Interviewer: Yeah, absolutely. After talking about all that and seeing where you are now, what goals do you have for yourself as you look ahead?

Glenn: I’ll tell you, I’ve just been blessed. I’ve been able to do a lot of things in my life and in the periods of my life from homelessness to where we are today. I bounced around in a lot of different careers. There was some time I actually went into the Navy and, and was an engineer on a nuclear submarine. I got out of that and got into some concert promoting and doing some things with that. Then I got back into coaching tennis and did a lot of coaching and built a club and did a lot of really cool stuff with that. Then I got a chance to go and work for a facility in Texas and build their alumni program doing business development for them and some case management with the clients.

I’ve had a chance to do a whole lot of things, but what I get to do now with putting on events to bring people and decision-makers in this field together under one roof to move our industry forward… that, to me, is a blessing, and I feel like I’m fortunate to be in this position. My goal going forward is to open up the doors and continue to bring leaders in our industry and in our country together in the same place where we can open up the treatment industry and get people the help that they need. You know, we’re really fortunate to have this vehicle and this venue to do good work and bring people together to do some meaningful things. There are so many people suffering out there – in the United States alone – that are underserved, that aren’t being helped, and we have the opportunity to open up services to help them. And I do feel like this is a gift to get to do this. So as far as goals going forward, that’s what I want to do.

“My goal going forward is to open up the doors and continue to bring leaders in our industry and in our country together in the same place where we can open up the treatment industry and get people the help that they need.”Glenn Hadley, Director of Foundations Events

Interviewer: How has your personal perspective on the treatment industry changed going from a patient to someone working in the industry, trying to help others?

Glenn: When I was a patient and I first came in, this world was really small, right? It basically consisted of me on a cold bathroom floor, hungover and shaking. That’s how small my world was. When I got to treatment and as I got in and started to be exposed to this world, my world opened up and has grown and grown and I’ve been exposed to so many different facets of the behavioral healthcare landscape. And now I’ll tell you, working here, the world is really big.

There are so many options out there. And so I do feel like it’s our job to connect those dots to bring this really big world that we have in behavioral health care and all of the services that we have to offer to that person whose perspective is still on that cold bathroom floor. Right? How can we bridge that gap? I feel like we get to do that. So, that’s how it’s changed. The world just kind of opened up.

Interviewer: And what is the most rewarding part of what you’re doing? What makes you so excited about the conferences and your role at FRN?

Glenn: You know, one of the cool pieces for me is that identification piece. So many people that I get to meet in this industry have a similar story. We were all just broken individuals suffering from an addiction – from a disease – that we couldn’t control. And now to be able to interact and come together on this side of the addiction and to be out doing things in this world to help others? I’ve been doing this thing for a long time, you know, and it’s really rewarding connecting with them. I love that part of my job.

Interviewer: Man, that’s awesome. In talking about the treatment industry and mental health, behavioral health industry, I know in the last few years it’s undergone a lot of changes. So what changes are you most encouraged by?

Glenn: You know, so one of the biggest pain points that I’ve seen on the behavioral healthcare landscape is the tension between the payer provider relationship. That has been a huge piece. And for years we’ve gone back and forth and on both sides, there have been some let’s just say interesting perspectives and a lot of tension. But one of the things I’m really encouraged by is that we’re starting to see some collaboration. We’re starting to see some of those walls breaking down a little bit.

At our conferences and other conferences, we’re starting to see payers show up and actually be in conversation with providers. I think we have a long way to go and I think that there needs to be some education around it. I think that some of the animosity on both sides needs to be addressed and the education needs to be put out there that its a really complex issue and it’s not going to be solved by pointing fingers at each other. We do need to come together and work together. Because in the end, when we’re pointing fingers and blaming, the one that really suffers is the patient.

I’m encouraged to see those conversations starting to take place. Mental health parity legislation has long way to go, but I do think that’s starting to gain some traction over the last few years. I’d like to see that continue. I’ve definitely noticed that things are trending in a good direction. It probably will take time, but we’re going that way.

Interviewer: What do you think is the biggest problem that still needs addressing?

Glenn: It’s a broader topic, but I think oftentimes we get stuck in our ways and we’re stuck in what we know. And I’m guilty of it too. It’s human nature to want to do what we’ve always done. If we are going to evolve and grow, and be really patient-focused, we’re going to have to break down some of those old ideas that we have around the way treatment is done, and also the way that we interact with one another.

There are so many things that are coming down the pike. New modalities that are out there that we’re going to need to look at and we’re going to need to walk through together and have open conversations without blaming. I think that’s the challenge that we all need to take up. Because, the patient is changing, right? Their behavior patterns and who they are is changing because people are changing. The patient is not the same patient that it was 20 or 30 years ago, and we need to be open to that and try to adapt to what works for the patient of today. And that also means looking at new modalities and seeing where they fit.

In the same vein, not throwing out what works. Not taking treatment modalities that have stood the test of time, and really effective and saying – just because they’ve been around for a long time – we need to get rid of them. No, that’s not it at all.

But if we have new tools to use and they fit a certain patient and we’re open to that, then we need to look at it, and not just shut off to it because it’s different. Likewise, we don’t need to shut off a patient from a tried and true method that’s been around a hundred years because it’s been around a hundred years. You know, if a patient is appropriate for a level of care and a modality, then we need to increase access to that.

Interviewer: Well, this was awesome! Is there anything that you’d like to add?

Glenn: Yes, absolutely. I would like to address not just our conferences, but conferences in general in the behavioral healthcare space. I think that 20 years ago, there was a need for conferences to understand the different programs that were out there. There wasn’t enough information for frontline caregivers to refer clients or patients out. So it was really important for clinicians and the frontline defenses to see what programs were available. Nowadays, there’s so much information out there. It really is about relationship-building to find out who’s doing good treatment and what their treatment looks like.

But the conference space needs to evolve. And I think that where we’re going as an industry in conferences is definitely the need to educate our clinical professionals out there on new modalities and what’s going on in the behavioral healthcare landscape. I think that’s the real role of conferences – for the education piece. I also think that they’re a forum for us all to come together as leaders in the behavioral healthcare community to have meaningful discussions about where we’re going as an industry and as a profession. I think that’s where conferences need to go.

I’d like to see us, as an industry, look at that and try to be more experiential and immersive in our exhibits to where the clinicians and frontline professionals that come to our events can go into an exhibit hall and they don’t feel like we’re shoving flyers in their face and just telling them about our program, verbatim. [And instead,] giving them a space to experience what we do.

So, I’d like to leave that out there to maybe challenge our exhibitors and facilities whenever they come to, to be more experiential with their booth and not just tell people about what they do, but show people what they do.

Interviewer: That’s perfect. Thank you.

Glenn: Thank you!

Learn More About Foundations Events

Foundations Events hosts two annual conferences for behavioral health professionals. The goal of these events is to help professionals further their education, their reach, and their relationships. Follow the link below to see what we have coming up in 2020!

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